Knatchbull-Hugessen, Edward Hugessen (DNB01)

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KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN, EDWARD HUGESSEN, first Baron Brabourne (1829-1893), was eldest son, by the second wife, of Sir Edward Knatchbull, ninth baronet [q.v.], of Mersham Hatch, Kent, where he was born on 29 April 1829. His mother, a niece of Jane Austen, was a daughter of Edward Knight of Godmersham Park, Kent, and of Chawton House, Hampshire. Knatchbull went to Eton in 1844, and matriculated at Magdalen College, Oxford, on 9 July 1847. He graduated B.A. in 1851, and proceeded M.A. in 1854. His father died on 24 May 1849, and stated in his will his desire that his son should add to his surname the name Hugessen, after the testator's mother, Mary, daughter and coheiress of William Western Hugessen of Provender, Kent. This was done by royal license.

At the general election of 1857 Knatchbull-Hugessen was elected a member for Sandwich, in the liberal interest, having Lord Clarence Paget for a colleague. His maiden speech in the House of Commons was made on 21 April 1858 in support of the abolition of church rates. When Palmerston, on 30 June 1859, formed his second administration he included Knatchbull-Hugessen in it as a lord of the treasury. This office he filled till 1866, with the exception of two months in 1860, when he was under-secretary for the home office. In Gladstone's first administration, formed on 9 Dec. 1868, Knatchbull-Hugessen returned to the under-secretaryship for the home office. In 1871 he became under-secretary for the colonies. On 24 March 1873 he was appointed a privy councillor. He left office when Gladstone resigned on 13 Feb. 1874. He was not included in Gladstone's second administration, which was formed on 28 April 1880, but on 24 March in that year he was gazetted a peer, with the title of Baron Brabourne of Brabourne in the county of Kent. After he entered the House of Lords his political views entirely changed, and he became a member of the Carlton Club.

He filled the offices of chairman of the East Kent quarter sessions and deputy-chairman of the South-Eastern Railway. He died on 6 Feb. 1893 at Smeeth Paddocks, and was buried at Smeeth, Kent, three days later. He was twice married: first, on 19 Oct. 1852, at St. Stephen's, Hertfordshire, to Anna Maria Elizabeth, younger daughter of the Rev. Marcus Richard Southwell, vicar of that church, by whom he had two sons and two daughters; and, secondly, on 3 June 1890, at Maxwelton chapel, Glencairn, to Ethel Mary, third daughter of Colonel Walker of Crawfordton, Dumfriesshire, by whom he had two daughters.

Before and after his elevation to the peerage Brabourne was an industrious man of letters, being chiefly known as author of numerous stories for children, but in these capacities failed to distinguish himself. He was also a book collector. His library, which was sold by auction in May 1892, 'abounded in topographical works, scarcely any English county being unrepresented,' and the sum realised was over 2,000l. (Athenæum, Nos. 3317 and 3353). After the death of his mother on 24 Dec. 1882, in her ninetieth year, Brabourne became possessor of ninety-four letters written by his great-aunt, Jane Austen, to her elder sister, Cassandra. At the close of 1884 he published these letters in two volumes, with introductory and critical remarks, which were mainly notable for their diffuse irrelevance.

Brabourne's story books, which pleased the uncritical readers for whom they were produced, were entitled:

  1. 'Stories for my Children,' 1869.
  2. 'Crackers for Christ-mas: more Stories,' 1870.
  3. 'Moonshine: Fairy Stories,' 1871.
  4. 'Tales at Teatime: Fairy Stories,' 1872.
  5. 'Queer Folk: Seven Stories,' 1873.
  6. 'River Legends; or, Father Thames and Father Rhine,' 1874.
  7. 'Whispers from Fairy-Land,' 1874.
  8. 'Higgledy-Piggledy; or, Stories for Everybody and Everybody's Children,' 1875.
  9. 'Uncle Joe's Stories,' 1878.
  10. 'Other Stories,' 1879.
  11. 'The Mountain Sprite's Kingdom, and other Stories,' 1880.
  12. 'Ferdinand's Adventure, and other Stories.'
  13. 'Friends and Foes from Fairy-Land,' 1885.

He also published, in 1877, 'The Life, Times, and Character of Oliver Cromwell: a Lecture,' and, in 1886, 'Facts and Fictions in Irish History: a Reply to Mr. Gladstone.'

[Times and Annual Register for 1893; preface to Letters of Jane Austen.]

F. R.